Friday, 30 April 2010

A Fly-Eating Great Crested Grebe

Reed Warbler
Great Crested Grebe
Great Crested Grebe - watching for flies!
Speckled Wood
Yesterday we defied the weather forecast and went ahead with sessions as planned. As it turned out the rain didn't really affect us, and only strengthened after the classes had finished. It was this term's final visit to this reedbed location. At least 3 Cetti's Warblers were singing, and a single booming Bittern could be heard in the afternoon. We had our best view of a Reed Warbler so far this year, but the Sedgies were harder to see. The Bullfinches were heard but not seen. Other Warblers present were: Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and a heard only Lesser Whitethroat. One surprise was a pair of Yellow Wagtails on the grassy strip in front of the main hide, which flew off before everyone on the pm session could spot them among the dandelions. I think that's the 1st time I've seen Yellow Wagtails at this particular reserve.
The duck species included courting Pochard, plus Gadwall, Tufted Duck, a pair of Shoveler, and 2 Shelduck flew in from the Humber. The only waders were Curlew flying over. A flock of 5 Swifts kept sweeping over the reserve - our first of the year, and a few Swallows were seen, but no Martins were observed. The Great Crested Grebe gave close views as it spent its time plucking flies from the water. A pair of Little Grebe were heard in the afternoon, but they refused to come out into the open. Unfortunately, there was no sound of the Grasshopper Warblers which had swamped the reserve only a matter of days earlier! One of the best afternoon views was a slow fly-past by a solitary but stunning Kingfisher - they seem in short supply this year!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Class Bogey Broken at Last

Little Owl - taken through car window
Little Owl
Willow Warbler (c) 2010 Maurice Gordon
Female Brimstone
Male Green-Veined White Attempting to Attract Female Brimstone
Green-Veined Whites with correct partners (c) 2010 Aileen Urquhart
Song Thrush egg
A Sop to the Sentimentalists (c) 2010 Aileen Urquhart
It must have been one of the best sessions of all time, as Carol give the pm class 15 out of 10, and she missed the Lesser Whitethroat and Yellowhammer; and David mentioned what a brilliant session it was, and I don't think he's done that before in 7 years of coming to the classes!
One of the reasons for the thumbs-up was the presence of the Little Owl, which has been noticeable for its absence during the last 7 years, but nearly everyone in the afternoon saw it, and some of the morning 'students'. Other big pluses were the pair of Peregrines and the male Redstart, but neither of these came close enough for a decent image to be captured. I hope all this wildlife will be present next time a class visits!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Going Organic

All pics taken today apart from the Wheatear
Barn Owl
Barn Owl
Barn Owl
Barn Owl
Wheatear - similar to the one seen today
Willow Warbler (c) 2010 Phil Hargreaves
Record shot of Whitethroat
Record shot of Heron nest with 4 young
Small Tortoiseshell on Dandelion
Today we made our first ever visit to Carr House Farm at Foston-on-the-Wolds. It isn’t normally open to the public on Tuesdays, so prior admission was sought & generously granted by genial hosts Caroline & Tim Sellars. The farm has been organic for at least the last decade and consequently has a richer diversity of wildlife per acre than most of the insecticide-sprayed East Riding.
The morning began well with 2 Stock Doves on the approach road, a Song Thrush singing loudly from the farmerhouse’s garden, and Swallows twittering around the farmyard. The nature walk began with a mass of House Sparrows & a Whitethroat at the end of the 1st paddock, and we went on to hear another 3 of the latter around the nature walk. Along the bank of the stream we had a Barn Owl, several Mallard, a Reed Bunting and a handful of Linnets. A possible Brown Trout was spotted in the crystal clear stream, and a ‘plop’ may have indicated the presence of a Water Vole, but it wasn’t seen. 2 Red-legged Partridge were flushed as we approached the woodland; whilst in there we heard and saw Willow Warblers & Blackcaps (both male & female).
In the afternoon 2 buzzards passed over the woodland, which also rang to the cacophony of Rooks cawing & the ticking sounds of young Heron. We rounded a corner & immediately saw Herons flying around & in the afternoon spotted 4 young herons on one nest, which is higher than the average. We retreated as soon as we saw the herons, to ensure they didn’t take alarm at our presence. A bare field contained c.120 Linnet, which is a high figure for this time in the year. In this same location Steve spotted a Wheatear, which was the most surprising bird, if not completely unexpected for the time of year – as it would be passing through on migration. Other unexpected birds were a pair of Gadwall, which sprang vertically out of a ditch, and 4 Tufted Duck in a drain.
A male Yellowhammer performed well for both sessions; whilst Claude discovered another 3 males in the same Elder bush on the extreme west of our route round the farm. Other birds included: Tree Sparrows, Mallard, Goldfinch, Wren, Robin, Moorhen; whilst butterflies included several Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Green Veined Whites with a single Orange-Tip. Mammals were represented by Brown Hares & 3 Roe Deer.
Caroline provided soup, quiche and freshly-baked bread from her Side-Oven for lunch for both sessions. You can read more about the delicious organic produce from the Side-Oven at: This new venue proved very popular with all of today’s participants.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Say Goodbye to the Nightingale

Nightingale (c) 2010 David Ware
Nightingale - belting again
Warm back view
Rufous Tail
Garden Warbler
Yawning Treecreeper
Treecreeper (c) 2010 Claude Hargreaves
Willow Warbler

I arrived at 8am to see if I could manage any pics of the Nightingale before the crowds arrived. I saw 4 individual males and a female. The 1st Nightingale let the morning class down, but we had great views of another, and would have had even better views if 2 photographers hadn’t jumped in front of us, as they obscured our view. There had been a big influx of Garden Warblers in since yesterday joined by a Lesser Whitethroat and a couple of standard Whitethroats. The Nightingales were harder to see in the afternoon, but a new one sang on the other side of the railway track & was visible in the same bush for nearly 5 minutes – all but one ‘student’ managed to pick it up. The Nightingales were “lifers” for 99.99% of those present, as were the Garden Warblers for most, and those that had seen the latter before has the best views they’d ever had. Well, that’s it for Whisby & the Nightingales until 2011! If you are interested in the plight of the Nightingale as a breeding bird in Britain, please follow this link to a recent article:

Sunday, 25 April 2010

BF Meet Lincs & S. Yorks

Belting it out
Fighting Male Adders
Male Adders Fighting
Near the climax
The rather drab (camouflaged) female
Drinker Moth Caterpillar
Unidentified Moth
Today's BF meeting went out of county to meet at Whisby near Lincoln. The 1st Nightingale was heard & seen very near to the car park, and then it flew down to feed on the ground. We sheltered from some very heavy rain, and then another Nightingale showed for a prolonged period & sang surrounded by Blackthorn blossom, but it was still very overcast. Also here was a pinkish-blushed Black-headed Gull, a Common Tern, my first House Martin of the year, Stock Doves, Bullfinches, Goldcrest, & some common ducks species. We went on to some nearby heathland where we added my first Yellow Wagtail of the year, many parachuting Tree Pipits, 2 Hobbies, a Buzzard, a large hawk, a Green Woodpecker, several Herons, a Common Sandpiper, and some Willow Warblers. John saw a cracking bird flying over, which it wouldn't be sensible to name on a public blog. Mark spotted the first Large Red Damselfly of the season, which was joined by at least 3 Brimstone butterflies, a few Peacocks, and my first Speckled Wood of the year. However, the highlight came after I heard a rustle in the bracken only to be confronted by 2 male Adders engaged in their fighting dance. This lasted for almost 5 minutes as they twisted and turned before one male retreated into the undergrowth. Some of went on to a site near Scunthorpe where we added a distant heard-only Cuckoo, a Lesser Redpoll & some Sand Martins. All-in-all a very good day was had by all.

Friday, 23 April 2010

End of a Good Week

All pics for this post (c) 2010 Vince Cowell unless stated otherwise
Black-tailed Godwits
Black-tailed Godwits
Marsh Harrier [male]
Darker phase Pheasant (c) 2010 M Flowers
Dark v. Light (c) 2010 M Flowers
Light v. dark (c) 2010 M Flowers
Great Crested Grebe
Black-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull v. Avocet
A ‘student’ from Skipton had 3 lifers today: Avocet, Spotted Redshank and Bittern & if only she hadn’t seen a Marsh Harrier last week, she’d have had a 4th this week, as there were plenty of those today. The first Whitethroat of the year gave good views during the morning, but apparently we’d just missed a Grasshopper Warbler, which would have been more impressive. Many Sedge Warblers sang & gave good views, whilst a single Reed Warbler was heard. There were maybe a hundred Sand Martins & a few Swallows. The 3 Spotted Redshank gave distant views, but later gave a fly-past. The youngest class member first spotted the Bittern, which was virtually scoffed at by some S. Yorkshire birders, but we later picked it up in 2 further hides, as it moved ever Eastwards. The Avocets weren’t there in the usual high numbers for this time of year, but hopefully, they’ll be massing on an island, which has undergone management just for their benefit. During the afternoon session a flock of c.20 Black-tailed Godwits flew in for a bath, some of whom were looking very impressive in their breeding plumage. A Barn Owl became visible in its nestbox entrance. We also had Stock Dove, Curlew, Snipe, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Reed Bunting, Wigeon, Pochard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Lapwing, Willow Warbler, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, and a possible Merlin. Some Bearded Tits ‘pinged’ but no one in the hide was able to "pin" them down.